Could Jack Pearson’s Diet Be to Blame?

Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC

heart-disease-foodFans of the hit NBC series This Is Us finally learned how the beloved character Jack Pearson died, but did they get the full story? In a recent episode, after a fire breaks out at the Pearson residence, a doctor explains that excessive smoke inhalation stressed Jack’s heart, triggering a massive heart attack that took his life. What the doctor didn’t mention is that atherosclerosis, which is a fatty build-up in the arteries, put Jack at risk for the attack. The physical stress his body endured through his heroic and successful attempt at saving his family from the fire likely caused plaque to dislodge and block an artery that supplies the heart with oxygenated blood. A lifetime of eating animal products floods the body’s circulatory system with cholesterol, raising the risk for heart disease. It couldn’t have helped that the Pearson kids ditched Jack on Super Bowl Sunday, leaving Jack and Rebecca to deal with all of the food they had prepared for a full day of snacking. Food served on game day is traditionally very animal product heavy, making it high in saturated fat and cholesterol. A 2007 study from the Journal of Nutrition found that a single fatty meal can cause the heart to beat harder and raise blood pressure. And a 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the number of heart attacks in one major city doubled during a big sports event. One has to wonder, was the state of Jack’s heart health a ticking time bomb? Could he have been due for a heart attack sooner or later anyway? What You Can Do Ditch animal products and switch to a heart-healthy diet centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Vegan diets have been found to help reduce heart disease risk by reducing inflammation and to lower risk for heart failure. And on game day, try these doctor-approved, crowd-pleasing recipes. Photo from here, with thanks.